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16 Towering Facts About Mount Everest

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Mount Everest is the tallest and highest peak on Earth. Or is it? Here’s everything you need to know about the world’s most famous mountain. 

1. MOUNT EVEREST’S ORIGINAL ENGLISH NAME WASN’T TOO CREATIVE. 

Before taking the name of Colonel Sir George Everest, the Welsh geographer who served as Surveyor General of India between 1830 and 1843, the mountain carried the unimaginative handle “Peak XV.” Mount Everest was referred to as Peak XV in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India in 1856, which also provided the first official estimate of its height at 29,002 feet. 

2. GEORGE EVEREST DIDN’T WANT THE MOUNTAIN NAMED AFTER HIM. 

Everest’s successor proposed that Peak XV be named after the geographer, and the Royal Geographical Society agreed in 1865. There was at least one voice who wasn’t crazy about this name choice: Everest himself. He worried that local speakers wouldn’t be comfortable pronouncing his surname, and he pointed out that there was no way to write the name in Hindi, either. Nevertheless, the society voted the surveyor’s name onto the mountain, which it’s unclear if Everest had ever seen.

3. IN FACT, “EVEREST” IS COMMONLY MISPRONOUNCED BY ENGLISH SPEAKERS! 

As it turns out, Hindi speakers weren’t the only ones who had trouble pronouncing Everest’s family name. Though “Ever-est” (where the first two syllables rhyme with “never”) is the common pronunciation of the mountain’s moniker today, this is in fact a mispronunciation of Col. Sir George Everest’s name: “Eve-rest” (wherein the first syllable rhymes with “sleeve”). 

4. THERE’S STILL DEBATE OVER THE PROPER NAME OF THE MOUNTAIN.

The first known documentation of the peak we call Mount Everest occurred between 1715 and 1717 at the hands a trio of Chinese surveyors assigned to the mission by Qing Emperor Kangxi. The team used the mountain’s traditional Tibetan name “Qomolangma,” which translates to “Holy Mother,” in their official records. (Variants of the spelling have included “Chomolungma,” “Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Feng,” and “Jomo Langma.”) Long after the Western world had adopted the Everest handle, Nepal began using its own name for the mountain: Sagarmāthā. 

5. MOUNT EVEREST IS NOT THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD. 

Despite Mount Everest’s reputation as the tallest mountain on Earth, it’s nowhere near the peaks of Hawaii. Mauna Kea may not reach Everest’s superlative 29,000-ish feet above sea level, peaking at just shy of 13,800 feet. But Mauna Kea stretches a whopping 19,700 feet below the ocean, adding up to a total height of approximately 33,500 feet and eclipsing its landlocked rival by more than three-quarters of a mile. 

6. IT'S NOT NECESSARILY THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN THE WORLD, EITHER. 

Yes, Mount Everest extends farther above sea level than any other mountain in the world. But Everest’s peak is not, in fact, the farthest point from the Earth’s center—that honor goes to Chimborazo, an Andes stratovolcano in Ecuador. 

The distinction is a product of our planet’s oblong shape: The Earth actually bulges outward around the equator, pushing its surface farther away from its core when approaching the equator. Sitting only 70 miles south of the equator as compared to Mount Everest’s distance of 1900 miles north, the 20,564-foot Chimborazo benefits substantially from this bulge. The South American peak measures 3967.1 miles from Earth’s core, barely edging out Mount Everest’s 3965.8 miles. 

7. THE HIGHEST ALTITUDE PLANT SPECIES LIVES ON THE MOUNTAIN. 

Unsurprisingly, Mount Everest is home to some of the world’s highest-dwelling living things. Scientists have found moss growing as high as the mountain’s 21,260-foot mark

8. IT ALSO BOASTS THE HIGHEST ALTITUDE ANIMAL. 

Even more astounding is the Himalayan jumping spider, which makes its home at Everest’s 22,000-foot point, the highest permanent residence for any animal on the planet. The spider is believed to survive exclusively on small hexapods carried up the mountain by the wind. 

9. ONE MAN WROTE ABOUT SCALING THE MOUNTAIN ALMOST 70 YEARS BEFORE IT WAS DONE. 

In 1885, Englishman Clinton Thomas Dent—a decorated surgeon and the future president of the Alpine Club of Great Britain—penned the first official prediction of mankind’s conquering of Mount Everest. Although Dent included this proclamation in his book Above the Snowline, he wasn’t necessarily a proponent of the endeavor, writing, “I do not for a moment say that it would be wise to ascend Mount Everest, but I believe most firmly that it is humanly possible to do so; and, further, I feel sure that even in our own time, perhaps, the truth of these views will receive material corroboration.”

Fellow mountaineer and writer Geoffrey Winthrop Young later recalled Dent’s aversion to braving new peaks. “He has often been quoted as saying that the Alps were exhausted as far back as the 1880’s [sic],” Young wrote in a 1943 issue of The Alpine Journal, “and he once wrote me a friendly warning not to attempt new Alpine ways, ‘since there is really nothing left worth risking much for.’” 

10. THE BODIES OF TWO EARLY CLIMBERS WENT MISSING FOR 75 YEARS. 

George Mallory was a trailblazing mountaineer who participated in the first three British attempts to scale Everest. Tragically, Mallory’s third go at the peak, undertaken in 1924, resulted in his and fellow climber Andrew “Sandy” Irvine’s disappearance. For decades, Mallory and Irvine’s bodies could not be found. During a 1936 climb, mountaineer Frank S. Smythe spotted what he believed to be a human body at the bottom of a distant gully, but he confined his observation to private writings for fear of incurring unwanted attention from the press. Smythe’s discovery would not become public until 2013, 14 years after the BBC-sponsored Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition of 1999 led to the recovery of Mallory’s body, but not Irvine’s. 

11. EDMUND HILLARY WASN’T AFRAID OF EVEREST, BUT HE FEARED HIS FIANCÉE. 

Thirty-two years after the earliest known attempts to scale Everest, New Zealand’s Edmund Hillary and Nepal’s Tenzing Norgay became the first men to successfully complete the trip. Appropriately, the achievement burnished both men’s reputations for insurmountable courage. Hillary, who had attempted the climb once before and had served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, was particularly lionized for his daring. However, Hillary was not a man without fear. The brave mountaineer was, in fact, too afraid to propose to his girlfriend, Louise Mary Rose. Hillary relied on his future mother-in-law, Phyllis Rose, to pop the question in his stead.

12. HILLARY AND NORGAY DIDN’T SPEND MUCH TIME AT THE PEAK.

Not feeling especially inclined to bask in their feat and running low on precious oxygen, the duo spent just 15 minutes on the summit of Mount Everest. They hugged, took care of a few bits of business, and headed back down to safety.

13. THEY DID, HOWEVER, LEAVE THEIR MARK ON THE SUMMIT. 

The pair buried a few more personal trinkets in the snows of the summit. Hillary left a small crucifix on behalf of friend and expedition leader Baron Henry “John” Hunt, while Norgay left a collection of chocolates and biscuits for the gods who oversaw the peak. 

14. TWO CLIMBERS HAVE SCALED THE MOUNTAIN 21 TIMES APIECE. 

Nepalese climbers Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa, nicknamed “Apa” or “Super Sherpa,” and Phurba Tashi share the record for most ascents of Everest. As of 2015, each has completed 21 climbs: Apa between 1990 and 2011, and Phurba between 1999 and 2013. 

15. NEPAL AND CHINA DISAGREE ABOUT HOW TALL THE MOUNTAIN IS. 

Although a difference of 13 feet seems trivial when you’re discussing the height of a peak as large as Mount Everest, this difference has stirred up a lasting disagreement between Nepal and China. Official decree by the former holds that Everest stands at a whopping 29,029 feet tall (just about 5.5 miles). China insists, however, that Everest is only 29,016 feet tall. The difference? China cuts the 13-foot layer of capping snow from its measurement. In 2010, the two countries reached an agreement in which China admitted the mountain’s overall height stood at 8,848 meters, while Nepal admitted that the height of the peak’s rock structure was just 8,844 meters. 

16. THE MOUNTAIN IS STILL GROWING. 

Give it enough time, and both China and Nepal will be wrong. Everest is still growing as a result of the Indian subcontinent’s constant northward drift. When it bangs into the Eurasian continent, the Himalayas get a bit of a boost. Everest’s stature increases by about 4 millimeters, or one sixth of an inch, every year. At this rate, China will have to concede to Nepal’s 29,029-foot decree by the year 2951. (Of course, by then, Nepal will claim the mountain’s height is actually 20,042 feet.)

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25 Wild Facts About Alaska
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Located 500 miles away from the nearest state, there’s likely a lot you haven’t heard about Alaska. Here are 25 facts about the last frontier.

1. Dog mushing is the official state sport.

2. The state flag was designed by a 13-year-old boy. After calling on students throughout the territory to submit their ideas, Alaska ultimately decided on Benny Benson’s scene of the Big Dipper and the North Star in 1927.

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3. Seventeen of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. are located in Alaska.

4. Some of Alaska’s bizarre moose-specific legislation has included laws against pushing a moose from a plane, viewing a moose from a plane, and giving a moose beer.

5. Haines, Alaska is home to America’s first museum solely dedicated to hammers. Visitors to the Hammer Museum can view their fascinating collections of hammer sculptures, handle-making machinery, and spring-loaded meat tenderizers.

6. Balto is the famous sled dog that’s usually credited with delivering medicine to a remote Alaskan village, but some argue that Togo was the true hero. Before Balto completed the last 55 miles of the journey, Togo pulled the medicine through 200 miles of wind and snow. His stuffed and preserved body is on display at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Museum in Wasilla, Alaska.

7. Alaska broke their record high when temperatures reached 100° F in 1915.

8. Their low of -80° F recorded in Alaska’s Endicott Mountains still holds the record for the nation's all-time low.

9. Alaska has more coastline than the other 49 states combined.

10. Because of their long summer days, Alaska is capable of producing some unusually oversized produce. Some notable specimens that have been harvested in recent years include a 35-pound broccoli, a 65-pound cantaloupe, and a 138-pound cabbage.

11. About 1700 miles south of the geographic North Pole lies the Fairbanks suburb of North Pole, Alaska. The town’s famous Santa Claus House gift shop is open year-round, and thousands of letters addressed to Santa are sent to the zip code each year. (A real-life Santa Claus was even elected to City Council.)

12. The Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia is around 55 miles wide at its narrowest point. Within it sit the Russian island of Big Diomede and the U.S. island of Little Diomede, which are just two and a half miles apart. So in theory, it would be possible for some Alaskans to see Russia from their houses.

13. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces bombed and invaded the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The occupation lasted nearly a year.

14. Moose, caribou, and bear killed by cars in Alaska are considered property of the state [PDF]. When road kill is reported, the carcasses are butchered by volunteers and distributed as food to charity organizations.

15. America’s largest national forest is the Tongass. It’s about three times the size of the runner-up, which is also located in Alaska.

16. Each year, brave Alaskans compete to be crowned the king or queen of their throne in the Fur Rondy Festival outhouse races. Teams outfit the bottoms of their custom-built outhouses with skis and race each other down a two-lane track. In addition to the title of first place, prizes are awarded for the most colorful, best-engineered, and cleanest commodes.

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17. The Thing, John Carpenter’s 1982 horror classic set in Antarctica, was filmed in Alaska.

18. In Barrow, Alaska, the longest night lasts for 67 days. In the summer they make up for it with 82 days of uninterrupted sunlight.

19. If Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, only 28 people would inhabit the island.

20. There are 107 men for every 100 women in Alaska, the highest male-to-female ratio in the United States.

21. Juneau is America’s only state capital that isn’t accessible by road.

22. In 1867, Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million, which amounted to about two cents an acre.

23. Many hotels in Alaska offer Northern Lights wake-up calls upon request.

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24. The Aleuts, Inupiat, Yuit, Athabascans, Tlingit, and Haida make up the major native groups of Alaska. At more than 14 percent, Alaska has a more concentrated indigenous population than any other state.

25. For years, the small town of Talkeetna, Alaska hosted the annual Moose Dropping Festival. Varnished pieces of numbered moose droppings were dumped from a crane into a parking lot and participants whose corresponding droppings landed closest to the center of a target received cash prizes. The event eventually grew too dangerously large for the town of 850 to handle and was retired in 2009.

This story originally ran in 2015.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
10 Shipwrecks You Can Visit
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Simon Bradfield, iStock

UNESCO says that there are no fewer than 3 million shipwrecks lost beneath the waves, their locations just waiting to be discovered. But for tourism purposes, the most interesting shipwrecks are those we already know about—and can visit. These 10 shipwrecks have intriguing stories, and they’re all places where you can step foot, although in some cases a boat (and possibly scuba gear) may be necessary. Remember: Look, don’t touch, since removing artifacts can spoil the chance for valuable archeological research (and is often illegal).

1. BESSIE WHITE, FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK

The half-buried shipwreck of the Bessie White on Fire Island, New York
Nick Normal, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 200-foot schooner Bessie White wrecked off the shore of this barrier island while laden with coal in 1919 or 1922 (historians aren't sure of the exact date). The crew escaped, but the 3-year-old ship ran aground. In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy revealed the battered remnants of the ship's hull, which had been carried to a spot near Skunk Hollow in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness. The National Park Service sometimes leads hikes to the wreckage, whose location over time provides scientists with clues to how the landscape of Fire Island has changed.

2. MS WORLD DISCOVERER, SOLOMON ISLANDS

The shipwreck of World Discoverer in the Solomon Islands
Philjones828, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

A cruise ship built in 1974 that once carried passengers to polar regions, MS World Discoverer ran aground in the Solomon Islands in 2000. No lives were lost—all the passengers escaped via ferry after an uncharted rock pierced the ship's hull. Today the wreckage is still a tourist attraction in Roderick Bay in the Nggela Islands, listing heavily against the shore.

3. PETER IREDALE, WARRENTON, OREGON

The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Warrenton, Oregon
Robert Bradshaw, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

Now a haunting ruin along the Oregon coast, the Peter Iredale was once a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel owned by British shipping firm Iredale & Porter. In September 1906, the ship left Santa Cruz, Mexico, on its way to Portland, Oregon, where it was supposed to pick up wheat bound for the United Kingdom. But a heavy wind and strong current sent her on to the breakers and she ran aground at Clatsop Beach, with three of her masts snapping from the impact, according to the Oregon History Project. The wreckage became an immediate tourist attraction, and despite being buffeted by the wind and waves ever since, it remains so today. It’s now part of Fort Stevens State Park.

4. MV PANAGIOTIS, ZAKYNTHOS ISLAND, GREECE

Shipwreck of the MV Panagiotis on Navagio Beach, Greece
Maczopikczu, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

This shipwreck in the Ionian Islands gives its beach its nicknames: Navagio ("shipwreck") Beach and Smugglers Cove. Supposedly, the Panagiotis, which wrecked there in the early 1980s, was smuggling cigarettes and possibly worse. The rusting hulk of the boat is far from the only thing to see, however; the beach also attracts visitors for its clear turquoise waters and pristine pale sand. It’s also one of the most popular spots for BASE jumping in the world. The cove can be accessed only by boat.

5. SS MAHENO, FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA

Shipwreck of SS Maheno on Fraser Island, Australia
Central Intelligence Agency, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once an ocean liner that plied the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia, the SS Maheno was also used as a hospital ship for the New Zealand navy during World War I. She was later sold to a Japanese ship-breaking company for scrap, but broke apart in a cyclone on the journey to Japan in 1935. Since washing ashore on Australia's Fraser Island, the ship has become a major tourist attraction, despite not being particularly safe.

6. SS OREGON, LONG ISLAND SOUND, NEW YORK

Once the fastest liner on the Atlantic, the SS Oregon sunk in 1886 just 18 miles off New York after hitting an unidentified schooner, often thought to be the Charles R. Morse. After an unsuccessful attempt to plug the hole in the hull with canvas, the captain ordered the ship abandoned, even though there were only enough lifeboats for half the ship's 852 passengers. (Fortunately, another ship arrived to save the passengers, and there were no casualties.) Today the wreck is a popular dive site in Long Island Sound. Although the ship's hull and decks have disintegrated over the years, the engine and boilers remain, among other remnants.

7. ULUBURUN, BODRUM, TURKEY

Granted, it's in a museum, but the Uluburun wreck, which sank off the coast of Turkey during the late Bronze Age, is one of the oldest ships ever found—it dates back 3,500 years. A local sponge diver found the wreck of the Uluburun off the southwestern coast of Turkey in the early 1980s. Archeologists then spent 11 years studying the ship, collecting 20 tons of artifacts, including the remains of fruits and nuts, pottery, jewelry, tools, and weapons. No one knows who built the ship or where it was headed, but judging by the amount of gold onboard, someone rich was involved. The remains of the ship and its cargo, as well as a life-sized replica, are kept at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

8. MV CAPTAYANNIS, RIVER CLYDE, SCOTLAND

Shipwreck of the Captayannis in the River Clyde, Scotland
Stephen Thomas, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Once a Greek sugar-carrying ship, the MV Captayannis has become a de facto home for birds and other wildlife since sinking in Scotland's River Clyde in 1974 during a terrible storm. (The minor collision with a BP oil tanker also didn't help.) The shallow waters around the wreck make it relatively accessible, and the ship seems likely to stay where it is, since its precise ownership is something of a mystery.

9. LA FAMILLE EXPRESS, TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

Shipwreck of the La Famille Express in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Matthew Straubmuller, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Built in 1952 in Poland, La Famille Express served a large part of its life in the Soviet Navy (where it was known as Fort Shevchenko), before being sold and re-christened with its new name in 1999. It wrecked under mysterious circumstances around 2004. It now lies in just a few feet of water, an attractive landmark for boaters in the Turks and Caicos.

10. EDUARD BOHLEN, NAMIBIA

Shipwreck of the Eduard Bohlen in Namibia
Anagoria, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

This wreck is unusual for being buried entirely in the sand—it's now stranded about a quarter mile away from shore. A 2272-ton cargo ship that wrecked off Namibia's Skeleton Coast in 1909 in thick fog, the ship has since drifted so far from the water it's now completely land-locked.

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